It’s the first day of the Royal Meeting at Ascot and I am as excited as a child at Christmas. I’ve crammed an entire week of work into three days and I’m taking every afternoon until Saturday off so that I can watch the horses.
I’ll be tweeting like a maniac with my Twitter racing posse; yelping and howling and relying far too much on exclamation marks. There will be capital letters and a hyperbole of excited adjectives.
The word ‘beauty’ will be used until it cries for mercy, along with the word ‘love’. Because that’s what Ascot is for me: beauty and love.
The experts and the technicians and the statistical mavens will be studying the numbers and looking at the draw and pondering the ground. They’ll talk about times and sectionals and where the pace is coming from. (My answer to that is: from a half-ton flight animal going at head-spinning speed.) I, by contrast, will be talking about the beauty. For me, this week is pure, glorious, unadulterated aesthetics.
It’s not about the hats or the humans, although some of the human stories will make me cry. It’s about the horses. It’s about the purity of the thoroughbred: that majestic, almost unimaginable creature who goes back to the three glittering sires who founded the breed. I’ll be thinking of the Byerley Turk, Captain Byerley’s tough warhorse, and the Godolphin Arabian and the Darley Arabian. I’ll be thinking of the foundation mares, with their strange and sometimes unpromising names – Old Bald Peg, Miss Darcy’s Pet Mare, Old Morocco Mare.
I’ll be thinking of the speed and the strength, the athleticism and the muscles like steel hawsers; I’ll be thinking of the almost impossible physiology. Racehorses shouldn’t really be able to do what they do; they exist at the very edge of what is physically possible.
I’ll think of their great minds – their intelligence and courage and generosity. I’ll think of their brave hearts.
I’ll fall in love with ones I’ve never met before – the swaggering raiders over from America and the fast youngsters, who have been running in quiet backwaters and are now ready to take their place on the big stage. I’ll remember my love for the old friends – the ones who seem to have been around forever, the ones who dance every dance, the ones who bring tears to my eyes.
And I shall gaze and gaze at the beauty. Very few things in the world are as beautiful as the thoroughbred. I shall swoon over the delicate fillies, lose my heart to the bonny mares, marvel at the rangy colts, tip my hat to the powerful, muscled geldings.
I’ll love them all, in their different ways. I’ll leap to my feet and shout and holler. I’ll want them all to run their race. I’ll think of the devoted humans who spend hours with them every day, knowing their quirks, laughing at their comedy stylings, gently brushing their fine coats to a glimmering shine.
Love and beauty, my darlings. It’s not often you get five straight afternoons of that. I never, ever take it for granted.